BHP delivers first crystals from Kwinana nickel sulphate plant

BHP has produced the first nickel sulphate crystals from its nickel sulphate plant in Kwinana, south of Perth in Western Australia. 

The nickel sulphate plant is an Australian-first and will produce 100,000 tonnes of nickel sulphate per year when fully operational. 

BHP Nickel West Asset President, Jessica Farrell, said: “BHP’s nickel sulphate plant is the first of its kind in Australia, and will produce enough premium nickel sulphate to make 700,000 electric vehicle batteries each year. 

“The plant will create 80 new direct jobs and support 400 new indirect jobs, in addition to the 200 construction jobs that were created during the construction phase. 

“High quality and sustainable nickel is essential for our customers, and we expect demand for nickel in batteries will increase by 500 per cent in the next decade. 

“Our investment to upgrade the refinery to produce high purity nickel sulphate, along with nickel powder and briquettes, will enhance Nickel West’s position as a supplier of choice for the growing global electric battery market.”

Over half of the plant was fabricated in Western Australia using local skills and suppliers. This included the steel work, fibreglass leach vessels and stainless steel tanks.

The plant consists of leaching tanks, purification technology, a crystalliser and dryer and an automated packaging system. 

Nickel from BHP’s mines is processed at the Kalgoorlie nickel smelter, before it is transported to the Kwinana nickel refinery and refined into nickel metal (in the form of powder or briquettes). Nickel powder is then processed through the new sulphate plant to make nickel sulphate. The nickel sulphate will be exported to global battery markets from the Port of Fremantle. 

BHP is one of the world’s leading nickel suppliers to the battery metals market, with 85% of its nickel metal currently sold to the battery market.

BHP’s Nickel West employs over 2,500 people and its operations include a fully integrated mine-to-metal business. 

This includes open cut and underground mining operations in Western Australia; concentrators at Mt Keith, Leinster and Kambalda; a smelter at Kalgoorlie that produces nickel-in-matte; and the Kwinana refinery which produces nickel metal as powder or briquettes, and now a nickel sulphate plant that will convert nickel powder into nickel sulphate for the battery market.